Report of the Royal Dutch Gas Association symposium, held in Rotterdam, on offshore system integration
On Wednesday 21 November, a Royal Dutch Gas Association symposium on offshore system integration was held in the Rotterdam Maritime Museum.
In his introduction, Han Fennema called 2018 the year of the climate summits. He pointed out that system integration, the union between electrons and molecules, was still missing. Could 2019 be the year when offshore systems finally come together? To give us an idea of the current state of play, we watched three presentations about the necessary steps already taken in 2018 and being followed up in 2019.
Joris Koonneef, strategic consultant at TNO, kicked things off with five options for this offshore integration: electrification of offshore platforms, Power-to-Gas, CCS, Gas to Wire and energy storage. Each of these solutions has some validity but they are all currently at the development and testing stage. The question is whether any of them can be presented as a business case; the fact is, however, that there is a huge commitment to offshore wind and it is sensible to link that to the existing infrastructure.
Arnold Groot, General Manager for Circular Energy, presented a technical discourse about emptying gas fields sustainably by filling them simultaneously with the CO2 that is released when generating power from gas production. This will keep the pressure in the field the same thereby reducing the risk of earthquakes and/or subsidence. When the field is empty of gas and full of CO2 it can be sealed with concrete. Groot is working very hard towards launching the pilot for this in 2021 with a 14% post-tax return ratio. This project, called “Cranberry”, can be seen as an offshore battery project. When asked why the focus is on electricity and not hydrogen, Arnold answered that there is already a market for electricity but not yet for hydrogen. For a start-up, this makes a better business case to attract investors.
The final presentation was by Jacqueline Vaessen. The General Manager for Nexstep (a collaboration between Nogepa and EBN) is involved with the national platform for re-use and dismantling. There's a good reason why re-use is mentioned first, because it is essential to look first at whether this is an option for the platforms. Once they are dismantled, they won't be rebuilt. Nexstep's aim is to reduce the costs by 30%. The state is currently paying around 70% of the total dismantling costs. When you consider that there are approximately 150 platforms in the North Sea, then billions of euros are involved. How are they going to do that? By being transparent, committing to shared learning, ensuring there are effective and efficient regulations in place, maintaining contact with international partner organisations and having a dedicated innovative agenda. The key problem in the whole story is the imminent gap between the end of production and the new repurposing. The re-use issue sometimes occurs well after the decommissioning of the fields. A 'Mind the Gap' warning is therefore also relevant to offshore system integration. The solution appears to be not to demolish these structures too quickly, first see what we can still use from them. We still don't know who will pay for that.
A small but impressive symposium during which the potential contribution of system integration towards the climate problem appeared to be considerable and multifaceted. But where the presentations were also dominated by common themes of feasibility and timing issues.